EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ERICK TRAN(The Simpsons/Urban Reggie)


I guess a good starter question, a good segue question into what you’re working on now, which is Urban Reggie.  You guys have the pilot up now.  So The Simpsons just celebrated its 500th episode.  What were some of the things you kind of learned while being a part of that staff that kind of helped incorporate how you put together a show, how you—how the characters are supposed to look,all that stuff?  What did you learn with your time with arguably the greatest show of all time?

Erick Tran: The Simpsons animation production is a solid running machine run by very creative people. Throughout the years I’ve had the good fortune of working with amazing directors such as David Silverman, Mark Kirkland, Steve Moore, Nancy Kruse, Matt Nastuk and Raymond Persi to name a few. I learned everything such as the importance of solid acting, comedic timing, background layout design, composing good shots, color and making scenes the best they can be.

Wow.

Erick Tran: The story of how I got hired to work on the show is pretty crazy too. But it’s a long story.

Go for it.

Erick Tran: Well, it all started in my senior year in high school. I was confused with what I was going to do after i graduated. I was really pushing to get into computer programming cause my uncle was very successful at it. Unfortunately I sucked at it. Confused with my life I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Growing up as a kid I loved art, but never came to my mind that I could make a living at it ever. It was until one day when a mysterious substitute teacher said something the hit me, she said, “if there’s any advise I can give you is always go with you talents, cause then you will always be better at what you do with the people you’re around.” So I went back to my roots and seriously started drawing again. I wasn’t a sci-fi or comic book fan. I just drew stuff that interest me and not necessarily what others in the industry were into.

It’s funny you should say that because that was our—that’s our business model at Bubble blabber.  It’s we post about what we like, not what—every single thing that’s out there.

Erick Tran: Yeah, I mean I hate to say it, but I’m probably the only guy in the studio that has not even seen all the Star Wars movies.

 I’ve never seen all the Star Wars movies neither.

Erick Tran: I think I’ve seen like maybe one of then and maybe I saw like 20 minutes of Empire Strikes Back and-

 I’ll be honest with you, Star Wars, Star Trek they can keep them.  I don’t even give a damn.

Erick Tran: So I finally decided to jump into the world of animation. I worked m y ass off for 3 months to create my portfolio and headed out to CalArts and Art Center. Unfortunately my portfolio was turned down by both of them and had no hope of any formal education. I thought my life was over, but I found the strength to keep my head up and move forward. Thinking about it now I learned a valuable lesson, if a door of opportunity closes on you it happened for a reason. Around that time a friend of mine had a contact with somebody on The Simpsons. They were offering internships and thought I’d give it a shot. This was back in spring of ’96. Make story short, they were impressed with the portfolio I produced in a short amount of time with no training or experience. I was accepted. I got the news around March, graduated June 22nd and started working full time on the 24th. Yes I was hired, I bypassed the internship phase and only thank God for that.

 That’s a heck of a story.  I got to be honest.  When you’re telling that story I can’t help but think about Urban Reggie to the point where like it’s about a couple kids going to Los Angeles to try to break it and you know trying to take it to the next step.  Is this project a bit more personal for you?  Is it more like wow these guys are kind of like me?

Erick Tran: Absolutely. I lived through it, I know it’s real and that’s why it’s believable. Like they say: write what you know.

Tell us more about Urban Reggie…

Erick Tran: The story of Reggie is alien crash lands on earth story. He sees the world of Hollywood and surrounding areas with fresh eyes, so we’ll have some fun with behaviors of different colorful characters of different races. He’s originally from a little town, a typical pueblo south of the border where life is much more mellow and slow paced. But Reggie and Pepe are big time movie goers and get inspired by what they watch on TV and the movies. So though they come from a remote location, they want what America has to offer.

  Do you think animation channels on the internet are the future?  What’s your take on that whole market?

Erick Tran: Oh boy, about online short content?

Well more along of the lines of like the online networks that are coming up, so like YouTube is commissioning like a bunch of channels, so it’s basically networks that are just on the internet.

Erick Tran: Well the Internet has definitely changed the playing field as well as mobile technology. It has changed the way people watch their shows, how they play games and how we communicate. Since more eyeballs are on the computer monitor (especially with younger viewers) we need to go where the customers are at. What inspired me to get into the webisode business was Seth MacFarlane’s deal with Google a few years ago.

Yeah.

Erick Tran: Will it replace TV? Don’t think so, but it does give creative people the ability to produce their own content and hopefully have a following online. The advantages are that you don’t need a studio to green light your project, once you post online you can create an online campaign to promote you show, which is exactly what we are doing with Urban Reggie. What would be great is that it will hopefully get the attention of the studios to want to partner or acquire the show and bring it TV. Robert Rodriguez has just announced his own network with Comcast. It would be awesome if we landed a deal with him some day!

Yeah. That would have been interesting.  I kind of like the idea you had better of Robert Rodriguez’ channel.  That sounds like it would be—if you had that that would be like slam dunk Michael Jordon style.

Erick Tran: I think so because we both have the same vision of producing content for 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos in the US which I’m actually a part of.

Do you think it’s almost getting too easy to get like your name out there nowadays like for animated series?  Back in the day it used to be kind of hard.  Now it’s like easy.

Erick Tran:        It might seem easy but it’s not. Even shorts like Charlie the Unicorn might look simple cause it’s low budget and not animation heavy like the Simpsons, but it was well thought out and the song at the end was crazy. It was original so it stood out quickly and became viral. The hard part now is that with so much noise on the Internet how will you make your voice stand out from the rest? That’s why we need to stay focused with our target audience. And my goal with my 16 years of experience with the Simpsons is to create the best animated show starring Latinos that have that prime time quality that we see on FOX. I believe that’s how we’ll stand out and guess what… It still takes hard work to get your name out there these days. We are working hard on our next episodes to really showcase Reggie and Pepe’s personalities and set the tone for our show. All I can say is that these are very exciting times for content creators and I can’t wait for people to enjoy our show!

Founder and Chief Editor of Bubbleblabber, LLC. Founded Bubbleblabber on Sept 12, 2011 and has been playing armchair Quarterback ever since.